Basic concepts in property ownership – Canberra

This article explains some key concepts in property – some general and some unique to Canberra.

Joint tenants: This is where two or more people own title to land together. If one person dies, the title is automatically passed to the surviving party or parties. The proprietors own 100% of the property together, so all parties have to be in agreement to sell or transfer the property.  

Tenants in common: This is where two or more people own property in specified and separate portions. Imagine a house divided like a pie – you may own half/a third/a quarter (or any percentage you decide) and someone else owns the other portion. You can each dispose of your share of the house as you please (although practically it is never that simple due to mortgages and the realities of trying to sell part of a property). If one person dies, the title is not automatically passed to the other owner(s). An example being, if domestic partners own a property as tenants in common in equal shares and one of them passes away, their half of the title is passed as per their will, not automatically to the surviving partner. When owning property as Tenants in Common, you should ensure that you have a current will. Our Estates team can assist you with this.

Life tenancy: A life tenancy is a right to live in a property for the remainder of your life. There may be terms and conditions attached, but the land is generally owned by another party and title reverts to them on the death of the life tenant. These days life tenancies are rare but we still do see them from time to time.

Leasehold: Land in Canberra is granted under a crown lease – so when you buy land, you are leasing the land from the government for a fixed term. Most residential crown leases are issued for a period of 99 years. When you buy an existing parcel of land, you take on the remaining term of the lease. As it is a Lease, there is consideration paid under the lease and terms that you must comply with, but there is no need to be alarmed, as these terms are similar to how local councils in other parts of Australia regulate the permitted use on the land and the need for approvals for development on the land. Provided the Government does not need the land, it is understood that they lease holder can apply for a new lease as the end of the 99-year lease approaches.

Purpose clause: In Canberra use of land is subject to a purpose clause. You’ll find the purpose clause for land in the crown lease of land, or on a units plan in the case of unit. You can vary your purpose clause, but it will be subject to a development application process and the Territory Plan.

Territory Plan: The Territory Plan is the document that regulates planning and land use, and development in Canberra. It contains maps which set out the zones and overlays for various parts of Canberra.

National Capital Plan: The National Capital Plan sets out the Commonwealth’s requirements for land use in Canberra. It is administered by the National Capital Authority. In addition to setting out the goals for Canberra, it also manages land of national significance. The Territory Plan is subject to the National Capital Plan.

If you are thinking of buying or selling, we can assist you. You can also peruse our conveyancing services here

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